Iowa Hawkeyes Are Underdog Against Hyped Michigan State

Tim WeidemanAnalyst IOctober 23, 2009

IOWA CITY, IOWA - NOVEMBER 8: Quarterback Ricky Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes calls a play at the line during the second quarter of play against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium on November 8, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa defeated Penn State  24-23. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

If the Iowa Hawkeyes are in the driver's seat of the Big Ten, the experts are filling the role of annoying backseat drivers.

ESPN's Accuscore Game Forecast projects Michigan State as the strong favorite in East Lansing. Strangely, this computer doesn't see in black and gold like its counterparts that compile the BCS Standings.

Based on each team's ability and variable game conditions, Accuscore simulates a game 10,000 times. Michigan State won 60 percent of the time. Iowa emerged victorious in 39 percent of simulations.

Where's the missing percent?

Chalk it up to the computer attempting to use the eye test on Iowa. 

Silly, computer.

Despite the disparity in rankings, the Spartans are considered favorites by computers and most human experts, even though the betting lines are practically calling the contest a toss-up.

The Hawkeyes are yet again put on upset alert. That's OK. It's not like the Hawks haven't dealt with that same adversity before.

Historical statistics carry a lot of weight in this contest.

Michigan State has won the last four meetings in East Lansing dating back to 1995. 

However, Iowa is no stranger to discontinuing home field advantage statistics, recall last week at Wisconsin.

A victory at Michigan State doesn't look so impossible when examining the Spartans on paper.

The Spartans score a lot of points, gain a lot of yards and have a defense lead by linebacker Greg Jones, the nation's leading tackler.

Yet the glaring hole is that Michigan State's defense doesn't show up on a consistent basis.

At times, running the ball against the Spartans is like swimming up a waterfall. Wisconsin's John Clay and Notre Dame's Armando Allen saw a different defense step on the field, however, and tore up the Spartans for over 100 yards each.

Sometimes the Spartans' weakness is defending the passing game. They gave up 352 yards to Central Michigan, 304 yards to Notre Dame, and 294 to Northwestern.

If the Spartans' defense resembles Swiss cheese rather than a brick wall, the Hawks will be successful. Otherwise, Iowa may be in for a battle determined in the trenches and which team makes the fewest mistakes.

Most experts assume Michigan State will bring the defense that came to play against Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern and that Iowa's offense won't be stellar.

The Accuscore computer assumes the same.

We know what assuming can do to a person. Now, the only question is what can it do to a computer?